Band Tradition: We Will Find A Way Or We Will Make One

Band Tradition: We Will Find A Way Or We Will Make One
November 22, 2013 Donald Fisher

By Dave Holgado ’95

In advance of this weekend’s annual Mask & Wig Kick-Off Bash, and on the heels of the Club’s 125th anniversary celebration (during which I was lucky enough to meet the undergraduate clubbie band guys), I feel compelled to share a story from two decades ago, the historical inaccuracies of which cannot be definitively proven (so just go with it).

My senior year, the 1994 Kick-Off Bash featured – for the first time ever – a live set from the Mask & Wig Band.  Three springs before, the band (led by bandleader/pianist Steve Raneri, drummer Ed Gold, guitarist Ted Werth, and bassist Alex Catalona) had played its first ever set at Spring Fling, and indeed, established what became the band’s now traditional spot as the headliner student band at Fling.  Until that point, the band had only functioned in its (cherished) role as the orchestra and pit band for the nation’s oldest all-male collegiate whatchamacallit.  But in playing Spring Fling, our band guy forefathers had shown us that the band could have a life of its own.

Band traditions go far backThe lineup for our Kick-Off Bash “gig” (a word which the band would grow accustomed to in future years, but which was foreign to us then) consisted of my fellow seniors Matt Sadowsky and Sandy Jensen on trumpet and Brian Eppig on trombone, Mike Fuchs on tenor sax, Alex Ferrara on drums (who would be replaced in the spring by Matt Tomb), Sean Mario on keys, Andy Kline on lead guitar, Dennis La on bass, and myself on vocals, alto sax, and occasional rhythm guitar.  We barreled our way through a set of covers (“Taste the Pain,” “Love Rears Its Ugly Head,” “I’m Tore Down,” “Late In The Evening,” “Two Princes,” and “Someday I Suppose,” among others) before closing with an original funk jam that must have lasted 20 minutes (and perhaps only 5 minutes too long).

That spring, at my final Fling, a then-unknown alternative metal band called Korn “opened” for the Mask & Wig Band on an overcast Saturday afternoon with an abbreviated (and objectively awful) set.  Their band members screamed and hurled their homemade cassette tapes at the crowd in disgust while being booed off the stage to chants of “Mask… And… Wig!”

Then we took the stage to close out the day’s performances, continuing in the tradition that had been established just a few years prior.  We played a set comprised exclusively of covers, including:  the Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching”; Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song”; Huey Lewis & the News’ “I Want a New Drug” (with guest vocals by cast guys Todd Lieberman and Mark Milstein); Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man” (with guest vocals by Ashley Fuchs); US3’s “Cantaloop” (with guest vocals by crew guy Adam Matta); and an original medley – I believe you kids today call it a “mashup” – of Green Day’s “When I Come Around,” Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today,” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Soul to Squeeze.”  We closed with Live’s “Lightning Crashes,” and as if we had summoned the weather ourselves, the skies opened up and an elated crowd screamed along during the chorus (“I can fee-eel it!”) while the rain washed over us all.

A photographer for the Daily Pennsylvanian stood on stage with us during our set and snapped a wide-angle shot looking out over the packed-to-capacity Quad, complete with crowd surfers.  The photo graced the cover of the DP the next day, as well as our class yearbook (and now the top of this blog post).  It remains my favorite memory of my time at Penn.  And it only happened because my band guy forefathers, Raneri, Gold, Werth, and Catalona, had carved out a new band tradition for us to follow.

I returned to Penn the fall after my graduation to sing with the band at the 1995 Kick-Off Bash, where, among other highlights, they performed a killer rendition of the Beastie Boys’ “So What’cha Want” fronted by business staff guys Steve Goodman and Rob Fechner.  This past weekend, I returned to Penn again for Mask &Wig’s 125th anniversary celebration, where I learned that not only has the band continued to play the Kick-Off Bash every year since – just as they will do this weekend (give ‘em buck, fellas) – they now play other “gigs” on a regular basis, and such gigs have even become an important source of revenue for the Club.

Then it hit me.  I’m a forefather, too.  We all are.  And that’s what has kept the Club kicking for 125 years, and what will keep it kicking for 125 more.  Not just the respect we show for old traditions, but the courage we have to make new ones.

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